Service Advisors Tell the What Sell the Why - Dealer-FX

Some customers are afraid to visit your dealership. From showroom to the service drive, they have anxiety about negotiating, the F&I process, and even the service experience.

Sound familiar? It should. Over the years, the dealership experience has been a much-covered topic. One national survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 52% of Americans feel anxious or uncomfortable when visiting a car dealership. Today, of course, it’s evolved into one of the most important issues dealers face. In fact, multiple studies claim that up to 75% of customers who visit a dealership for service within a 12-month window are likely to return to purchase their next vehicle.

Fact is, the service drive is the central “drive” of the dealership. It’s a recession-proof, consistent profit machine that also helps fill the sales pipeline. What’s more, according to a recent DealerRater/Fixed Ops Journal survey, three out of four vehicle owners “generally prefer getting maintenance and repairs for their cars and trucks at franchised dealerships.” The survey, which polled 16,000 consumers, also found that 81% of owners of luxury-brand vehicles were likely to return for dealership service.

But wait a minute. If people prefer to visit dealer service departments, how exactly are they full of fear at the idea of it?

Help Create Positive Customer Service Anticipation

For starters, it’s fair to speculate that customers are far more apprehensive going into a service appointment than when leaving. Whether it’s a simple rotation or a major interval service, they often don’t know what to expect, how much it will cost or how long it will take. The very idea of automotive service can feel disruptive. The challenge is to shift the customer perception. How does a dealer reduce consumer fear and loathing going into the dealership, and extend the happiness after the sale? This is critical because future dealership revenue streams will depend on how customers feel about going to their local dealership. Here are three simple suggestions:

Help Service Customers Feel Comfortable: Service customers usually start online, scheduling a time to bring their vehicle in for maintenance. So make sure your online scheduling is fully integrated into the service communications so that they’re welcomed by a prepared and friendly service advisor. Your advisors understand the customer profile, priorities, and objectives ahead of time, and are ready for them. You can do this by utilizing existing data, such as VIN and sales information, as well as OEM data about the vehicle. Perhaps most importantly, use digital technology, such as a tablet, to conduct a truly interactive “show and tell” walk-around.

Show Your Expertise: The survey results reflect a need for expertise. Customers simply value the dealer’s knowledge over price discounts from independent shops. Invest in the appropriate certification training classes and renew testing on a consistent basis. Then showcase all that well-earned knowledge in a friendly and consultative way during the inspection. This perspective – this expertise – is why people come to your service drive. Best of all, it’s a win-win: the customer feels empowered by your knowledge and knows that it’s good service advice. The service departments get higher ROs and builds better loyalty.

A Transparent Relationship Always Reduces Apprehension: Each customer touchpoint you have builds data, and provides valuable information about what they want and how to best serve them. It also – if you’re paying attention – reveals their needs, challenges, and lifestyle requirements over time. Do they coach soccer – so a Saturday pickup is impossible? Are they commuters, and will they arrive home after closing? These tidbits or data points personalize the experience and help create connected relationships. Done right, it will build over time to the point where a loyal customer would never even consider going to another shop. But here’s the most important tip of all: make everything transparent, and use technology to do so. Your customers want to know about pricing, standards and service — in advance of coming to the drive. Make it available through digital marketing, and they will make you a consistent stop.

It makes sense that service customers find the process daunting and stressful. Their lives are disrupted, and they often feel that they have very little control over the outcome. By creating an integrated approach between human service and tech-driven efficiency, you can set the stage for a proactive relationship that stays connected long after the warranty has expired.

What’s Next?

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